Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee have taken the lead in opposing the ban imposed on sale of cattle for slaughter following the notification of new rules by the central Environment ministry. While Vijayan has shot off letters to his counterparts in other states asking them to "stand together" and "oppose" the ban, Mamata has vowed to challenge the new regulations legally.
The Environment ministry had last week notified the stringent 'Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017' under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act banning the sale and purchase of cattle from animal markets for slaughter.
The raging row over ban on sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets kept the political pot on the boil even on Monday with protests being organised in several parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
In a letter to chief ministers of other states, Vijayan has sought support in urging the Prime Minister to withdraw the new regulations.
"Unless we stand together and oppose this anti-federal, anti-democratic and anti-secular move, it may mark the beginning of a series of similar measures aimed at destroying the federal democratic fabric and secular culture of our country," Vijayan said.
"I would therefore fervently appeal to you to convey your objection to the 2017 Rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to the Prime Minister, and to request him to withdraw the rules introduced without any consultation with the states," he said in the letter to various chief ministers.
He said that since the matters dealt within the rules squarely fall within the purview of state legislatures, the state governments should be allowed to formulate necessary policies and laws to suit the socio-cultural and economic milieu of the state.
The rules impose several restrictions on cattle trade, which would have serious repercussions on the livelihood of millions of people, especially those in the agricultural sector, in the country.
Vijayan said it was nothing but a "covert attempt to usurp the powers of state legislatures" in the guise of rules under a Central Act. The subjects covered by the rules belong to entries 15 and 18 of the state list in the Constitution, he said.
This "impermissible encroachment" into the domain of the state legislatures was a "clear violation of the spirit of federalism", which is one of the basic features of the constitution, he said.
The rules, by imposing unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to carry on any trade or occupation under Article 19 (1) (g) of the constitution, will not stand the test of constitutionality. They also violate the basic right of a person to freedom of choice regarding his food, he said.
"It is unfortunate that such a drastic measure was introduced in exercise of the rule making power, surpassing the elected representatives of the people and avoiding any public debate," he said.
"This is nothing but a negation of the democratic principle, which is indisputably accepted as forming part of the basic structure of the constitution," Vijayan said.
Mamata Banerjee hit out at the Centre for its ban on sale of cattle for slaughter saying it was a "deliberate attempt to encroach on the state's powers and destroy the federal structure" and asserted her government would challenge it.
"We will challenge it legally. We will consult the state's Advocate General on this matter. I will request the Centre not to interfere with the state's matter and destroy the federal structure," Banerjee told a press conference at the state secretariat on Monday.
"It is a unilateral decision. We are not accepting it. We are not bound to abide by this rule. They (the NDA) are an elected government and they have their jurisdiction. The state government is also an elected government and it has its jurisdiction," Banerjee said.
"It is a deliberate attempt to encroach on the state's powers. It is undemocratic, unconstitutional and unethical. It is also an attempt to destroy the federal structure," she said.
She also questioned the timing of the Centre's decision ahead of the month of Ramzan.
When asked about it, she said, "Going by the timing, it seems to be so. It may suit the BJP but it may not suit others."
"They (the central government) are doing whatever they like by force. Will they decide what one will eat? Some day they may say that one cannot eat egg. They cannot also decide where market will be set up," she said.
The rebel AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) faction today asked the Centre to withdraw its ban on sale of cattle for slaughter, saying it should not treat views expressed against the move as opposition and respect people's sentiments in this matter.
The faction's leader and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam recalled that the late J Jayalalithaa had as chief minister in 2001 directed that a law prohibiting slaughtering of goats and hens in temples be implemented.
But there were "voices of dissent" from people and devotees who wanted the order to be recalled and Jayalalithaa "respected people's sentiments" and heeded their demand, he said in a statement.
"On the lines of the decision (then) taken by Amma (Jayalalithaa), the Centre also should not consider all views expressed against the ban as opposition (but) treat them as people's sentiments and withdraw the ban on sale of cattle for slaughter," he said.
Protests erupted in several parts of Tamil Nadu today against the ban on sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets and the opposition DMK announced an agitation on May 31 against the Centre's move.